Experts blast ‘fallacious reporting’ that H-1B employers make ‘good faith’ effort to hire Americans.
The Associated Press ran an “explainer” story about the federal H-1B visa program on Tuesday afternoon that experts say includes highly questionable, even debunked, claims about the guest worker program.
The controversial program allows foreign workers into the United States to fill specific employment opportunities with participating companies.
“The statement that it isn’t supposed to displace American workers is misleading … There is just so much mythology about this program.”
It is unclear how many of these workers are in the United States now, says one expert, because the federal government does a poor job of tracking the program’s statistics. Another critic of the program said as many as 800,000 visa holders are in the United States, soaking up wages from American companies.
The claim made by supporters of the H-1B program is that these foreign workers are helping fill a hole left by a lack of skilled American workers.
Proponents of the program claim employers cannot find enough of these sought-after workers, which AP says can include fashion models, professors, and architects.
Backers of the visa program often whisper the same misleading talking points into the ears of a pliant media. The claims keep popping up, to the chagrin of H-1B watchdogs.
The Tuesday report by the AP’s Anick Desjanun claimed “companies must make a good faith effort to hire a U.S. worker before turning to an H-1B worker. They are also required to pay at least the prevailing wage for that occupation.”
Those particular claims immediately brought howls from immigration experts and critics of the H-1B visa program.
“This is an error that is repeatedly made by both the media and even policymakers,” said Ron Hira, a professor of policy at Howard University and a fellow at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “This is absolutely incorrect and goes right to the heart of what’s wrong with the program. There is a very small subset of firms that are required to do this — and even for them, most are exempt from this requirement. The vast majority of H-1Bs are hired without any ‘good faith’ recruitment promise made by the employer.”
Hira says the media often repeats bogus lines about the program.
“I find myself writing to reporters frequently, informing them of the inaccuracies,” Hira told LifeZette. “I stopped keeping track of the fallacious reporting, but it’s been going on for years and persists.”
Hira points to an April 2007 correction run by The New York Times as proof the claim is often made erroneously.
“An article on Saturday about a lottery by immigration authorities to select applicants for 65,000 visas for highly skilled foreign workers misstated the requirements employers must meet in order to sponsor the visas, known as H-1B,” the correction on April 14, 2007, read. “For most of these visas, employers must affirm to the Labor Department that they will pay the immigrant at least the prevailing wage for the job and that hiring the immigrant would not negatively affect the labor conditions of United States workers in similar jobs. Employers do not have to show that no American workers were available for the job.”
Apparently, no one at the Associated Press is listening to Hira or other critics. The mistakes about the controversial program keep getting made.
The H-1B visa program became a campaign issue in 2016 when now-President Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) bashed the policy at election rallies.
Criticism of the program ballooned after revelations that the Walt Disney Co. laid off about 250 tech workers in early 2015, after the firm brought in technology contractors that rely heavily on visa users from other parts of the globe, according to Computerworld.
Reports at the time, and subsequent congressional testimony, revealed many of the American workers who lost their jobs were forced to train their foreign replacements.
Why the misleading claims about the program keep getting spread mystifies the critics. The program is defended by a number of large U.S. companies and by Indian outsourcing companies.
The program mainly benefits Indian workers, since 70 percent of H-1B visas are held by Indians, according to David North, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.
North agrees with Hira on the dubious claim about “good faith” efforts not to displace U.S. workers.
“The statement that it isn’t supposed to displace American workers is misleading,” said North. “There are no recruitment requirements … There is just so much mythology about this program.”
And the reason is obvious: The program is lucrative for large U.S. companies. North said companies can save up to 30 percent on annual wages. Critics also maintain the “prevailing wage” for the H-1B workers is misleading; the requirement still means the workers are underpaid — while displacing American workers.
“[The H-1B visa program] is designed to replace American workers,” said John Miano, also a fellow at CIS. “It is just designed to be abused.”
The dubious report is particularly notable since the storied wire service has attacked new media outlets for allegedly publishing “false stories” in recent weeks.
AP did not respond to an email seeking comment.